Some people — as demonstrated by responses to blogs and other forums — believe the Edwardses are stealing time from each other and their children, while others see a couple that has weathered the tribulations and assaults life brings to most families, and could set a national example of coping. Mr. Edwards characterized both points of view as “fair” ones.
“I want the country to understand that people are completely entitled to their opinions on this,” Mr. Edwards said in a 30-minute interview largely dominated by Mrs. Edwards. During the interview, the candidate carefully kept looking at his wife, at times tucking his hand gently under her arm, other times finishing her sentences.
The couple framed their decision and their coping mechanisms — both now and potentially for the future — through the loss of their son, Wade, who was killed in a car accident in 1996.
In terms of being mindful of their young children, Emma Claire, 8, and Jack, 6, Mr. Edwards said, “We both recognize that there is a tension in our desire to be the best possible parents we can be for our kids — and remember this is in the context of parents who lost a child — and our desire to serve our country.”
Mostly it’s a flattering story, so I don’t want to pick, but there’s something running underneath it that I think is very interesting and makes me … not angry, but just kind of a very strong NO.
And that’s the assumption that it’s either work or family, that there’s two boxes, and you either pick one or the other. I see this a lot in discussions online and with friends, this idea about your life being divided, this part and that part and it’s your job to parcel out time to each thing like a mother bird dividing up food into hungry squawking mouths.
Work has no meaning to your family, family has no meaning to your work, the work is John Edwards’s and Elizabeth is either standing around supporting him or doing her own thing, that it’s not her run as much as his, that they should somehow … what, sit in their house? Go to Disney World? Play more Scrabble? I honestly don’t understand what we’re defining as more meaningful here. I don’t understand what people seem to want them to do.
(Under all that, of course, is a very big fuck off, don’t tell anyone else how to be when they’re ill or grieving or living through something, just be grateful for what you can have of them and don’t try to make it about your reaction and your ideas of appropriateness. Freepers.)
If you’ve only got so much time to spend, and we’ve all only got so much time to spend so don’t kid yourself, why shouldn’t you want to spend it doing something that you think will contribute to the greater good? Why ISN’T that a valid use? And why can’t that be time with loved ones as well, why can’t that have meaning for your family, that after you’re gone, you devoted your life to doing decent things for decent reasons and you worked hard to make the world a better place? I don’t know if I believe John Edwards should be president but I do not believe he’s running out of anything other than a desire to improve his country, and I admire that greatly, especially now. And of course you’ll want more time — doesn’t everybody want more time for everything?
We always frame these things as a stark 180-degree choice. It’s one life. It’s your life, and it’s all one thing. And the only people to whom how you live it is valid are you and those whose opinions you choose to care about.